Rossi and Gibernau feature in MotoGP quintet as they set the scene for season curtain-raiser.
The time for talk ahead of the start of the MotoGP season was almost over on Thursday in Losail, but the last platform for the riders was raised for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar press conference. The media gathering saw five riders expressing their views, reviewing their preseason and -in the case of two famous faces- putting their differences to bed before the second MotoGP night race.
Riders Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha), Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro), Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) and Sete Gibernau (Grupo Francisco Hernando) were the riders being posed the questions by the gathered national and international press, all five delighted to be recommencing a race weekend.
"I have the same level of excitement as I had back in 1996; when I don’t feel this way then I’ll go home," said reigning World Champion Rossi. "We’re all wanting to understand our level in a real scenario, different to testing. We weren’t at 100% when we last tested here, but we have improved a bit from what was our worst race last year."
Also claiming less than full preparedness was Dovizioso, who nonetheless had good memories of his 2008 debut at the Losail International Circuit.
"Last year was nice, and now we have some data here with the new bike. We will keep working," promised the Italian.
"I’m sure that we are able to start this season at a reasonable level," added Stoner, the winner of the two most recent races at the Qatari track. "With the bike the new chassis has made a big difference, and the new swingarm makes the bike move around a lot less. It’s easier for me to ride."
Vermeulen indicated that whilst Suzuki did not have the "perfect machine", they were still happy with what has been a successful winter and stated that, "our goal is the podium, but everyone else wants to be there as well, and there aren’t that many spots on the box."
The gathered hacks eager for a story could not have wished for a better opportunity with the presence of Gibernau in the press conference alongside former nemesis Rossi. Whilst the Spaniard was eager to express his excitement at his return to MotoGP action after two years on the sidelines, and his ambition being simply to finish the opening round in the face of pain from his injured shoulder, the question on everyone’s lips regarded the relationship between himself and the six-time MotoGP titlist.
"The best years of my life were spent in MotoGP, and riding against the man who many of you say is the best ever," considered Gibernau. "Also I had some of my best times off the track with him, so I am proud to be back." Rossi’s thoughts on whether the two could become friends? Yes they could, and he hopes to see his rival "up in front… but not in front of me!"
The two gave a handshake for the cameras, already leaving the 2009 season with an iconic image even before they begin practice on Friday night.
A confessedly nervous Gibernau almost felt enough at ease to crack a joke about his lack of night riding experience, explaining that he’d been "trying to get used to the lights by going out in Barcelona," but was unsure as to whether this would help him.